Chaz Bundick sings to the desert winds at sunset in his new concert album and film, Live From Trona
“It’s all getting a bit too predictable in a way,” says Chaz Bundick. “It’s all right there. It’s too easy to find the best songs, to skip to the best part of a song. I want people to experience something new, and if the music is good I hope it will be memorable too. I want to look at different ways to bring music to another level.”
Approaching a decade in music, Bundick has always sought new paths. Originally hailing from Columbia, South Carolina (and currently decamped to Portland, Oregon), he graduated through a series of teenage punk and indie bands before going solo as Toro Y Moi in 2001. Incorporating electronics with a slew of disparate influences ranging from rock and baroque pop to R&B and underground hip hop, 2010 saw the release of his debut long player, Causers Of This on Carpark Records, his label to this day. It set the online music community alight and saw Bundick hit the road with the likes of Phoenix and Caribou.
In the years since then Bundick has turned over many stones with studio albums, EPs, side projects, DJing and mixtapes touching on hazy soundscape collages and flickers of house music through to the tight sounds of last year’s What For?, his forth studio album. He has managed to surf through the much-hyped buzz of early 2010s chillwave and emerge on the other side as an enduring artist. Lauded by his peers, he has collaborated with the likes of Nosaj Thing, Chromeo and most recently The Avalanches, for whom he contributed If I Was A Folkstar to their much-anticipated Wildflower album. However, it’s with his latest project, the live album and accompanying concert film Live From Trona, that Toro Y Moi takes things to dizzying new heights.
Supported by Vimeo, Live From Trona takes in 13 tracks from Bundick’s catalogue, performed live with his band against a stunning backdrop of the Mojave’s Trona pinnacles, which were formed as part of a prehistoric lake. Filmed in the round, with cameras, lights and crew visible at all times, the performances are interspersed with hand-drawn animations and VHS footage imbuing the film with the flavour of psychedelic rock films of previous eras.
Watch Grown Up Calls from Live from Trona
The film is the latest in a long series of collaborations between Bundick and director Harry Israelson including music videos, behind the scenes pieces and documentaries. But Live From Trona is by far their most ambitious video to date. “It was a crew of 25 people so I was thankful everyone was down to work on this, even though it was not their normal thing. Most of my videos have been really DIY with like five people on the set. Just to see how they rose to the occasion was pretty impressive. It was really amazing to experience.”
“We played the whole thing in an
hour and half because we were racing
against the sundown. It was crazy”
While developing the concept took a number of months, the execution itself was swift. “We drove out to the desert at 6am. It took five hours to get the set up going and then another two to three hours to work on the sound. We played the whole thing in an hour and half because we were racing against the sundown. It was crazy but like clockwork everything was just done so well in time.”
Song selection was dictated by the previous year’s worth of relentless touring. “We picked out our favourite live songs then extended some drum intros and outros just to have fun with the set. There’s not really any electronics going on at all.” Bundick also introduced multi-instrumentalist Brijean Murphy on live percussion, and for the new song JBS, the group is joined by jazz duo The Mattson 2, who will support them on their upcoming US tour this November.
As Live From Trona enters the world, the experience of making it has also inspired Bundick’s creative juices beyond music. “This film has taught me that I love creative direction. I went to school for graphic design and it’s always been a passion of mine so I would love to branch out and exercise other parts of my brain.”